Monthly Archives: March 2012

How Persuasive is Your Personal Brand?

You don’t need to be a marketer to think about your personal brand.  Each and every one of us conveys a unique brand that influences how we interact with and are perceived by others.  This outward brand encompasses your actions, behavior, appearance and every other element that makes you a unique, separate person – creating the person others see us as (even if we see ourselves differently).

Now, unfortunately, whether or not you’ve been proactive about managing this brand doesn’t matter.  Each of us has a personal brand that influences how persuasive we are and how successful we’ll be, which is why it’s so important to manage your personal brand consistently.

The first step in managing your personal brand is determining how others view it.  To do this, we can use an NLP technique known as “Perceptual Positions”.

Essentially, perceptual positions allows you to review a past interaction or plan for a future exchange by examining the events that occurred from three different viewpoints – your own, your partner’s and a detached third-party.  Let’s go through an example to see how this process can be applied to real-life situations in order to more fully understand the power of perceptual positions.

Suppose you work as a salesperson and recently had a meeting with a potentially high-level client to discuss the advantages your product or services bring to the table.  Up until this point, you haven’t managed your personal brand at all, so you have no idea how your actions and personality were perceived by this new client.

To start, review the meeting in your mind, paying particular attention to your behavior.  Try to remember the things you said, as well as the tone you said them in?  Were you authoritative or timid?  Did you clearly state your points or did you stutter and stammer your way through your sales pitch?

In addition, create a detailed image in your mind’s eye of your body language and physical posture.  How did you sit in the meeting?  Were your shoulders rolled back in a confident posture, or were you slouched over in your chair?  Did you maintain eye contact, fidget with your fingers or engage in any other behaviors that would give your client clues to your personal brand?

At this point in the process, try not to apply judgments to the elements you uncover.  Don’t berate yourself if your words or behaviors weren’t in line with what you’d like your personal brand to be.  Instead, simply try to become more aware of how you’ve behaved in the past and how that’s strayed from the image you’d like to convey.

The next step in the process is to go through the meeting again in your mind, but this time from the perspective of your client.  Envision yourself looking through his eyes throughout the entire interaction – from the time “you” walk in the door until the meeting closes with a handshake.

Now, from this new perspective, how do you regard the person sitting across the table from you?  Has he effectively persuaded you to purchase his product or service?  If yes, which specific behaviors made you feel you could trust him?  And if not, which elements led you to avoid closing the sale?  As the client in this situation, do you feel that the salesperson took your needs and considerations into account?

Finally, go through the scenario a third time, this time imagining yourself as an impartial third-party observing the scene.  As you have no connection to either the salesperson or the client, you can observe their interactions in order to understand more about the personal brand each party is conveying.

Once you’ve completed the exercise, take a moment to evaluate your behaviors and interactions as part of your overall brand.  For example, were you:

  • Enthusiastic or soft-spoken?
  • Straightforward and direct, or metaphorical in your language?
  • Submissive or aggressive in your body language?
  • Fidgety in your mannerisms or still?
  • Dressed in a way that’s appropriate to your business level?

Each of these elements – and many, many more – play a role in developing your personal brand and determining how persuasive it is.  If any of the elements you uncovered in your perceptual positions exercise run counter to what you’d like your personal brand to be, you can consciously try to improve specific characteristics of your appearance, behavior or language in future interactions.

Generally, you’ll find that it’s easier to start by applying perceptual positions to interactions that have occurred in the past.  However, as you get more advanced with this technique, you’ll be able to project these three viewpoints onto future situations as well, enabling you to model the behaviors you’d like other people to see as part of your personal brand.

Image: Stefano principato


What Makes a Strong Leader?

Whether you occupy a leadership role within your professional life or would simply like to be more authoritative in your dealings with other people, understanding what makes a strong leader can go a long way towards improving your own skills in this arena.  Here’s what you need to know to increase your own leadership potential:

Element #1 – Understanding your followers’ motivations

The first key element to becoming a strong leader is understanding more about the people you’d like to lead.  If you’re a manager, this obviously requires gaining a better understanding of your subordinates.  On the other hand, if you’re trying to create a leadership position for yourself, you may need to think a little harder about who specifically falls into the group of your intended “followers”.

Once you have this group in mind, try to understand more about their motivations.  Do your followers tend to be more aspirational or risk averse?  Do they make decisions based on what will benefit them most or what will prevent harm from occurring?

Of course, within a group of followers, you’ll likely have people at both ends of these spectrums.  In this case, try to get a feel for the balance of your group.  Are they equally distributed between aspirational personalities and risk-averse followers?  Or do they tend to fall into one category, with a few outliers going in the opposite direction?

If you’re struggling to determine which camp your followers should be placed into, try listening to the words they use.  If you hear a follower using the words, “achieve,” “goal” or “earn,” you’re likely dealing with an aspirational personality.  At the same time, if you hear someone using the phrases, “avoid,” “reject” or “risk,” he’s likely more motivated by the desire to avoid harm.

You can also ask your followers directly what motivates them, although this generally works better in established relationships (for example, as a boss addressing an employee) than in situations where you’re trying to position yourself as a leader.  Asking an employee open-ended questions – for example, “What about your job is most important to you?” – should provide you with enough evidence to determine how each follower prefers to be motivated.

Step #2 – Using authoritative body language

If you’ve studied NLP for any length of time, you know how important body language is.  As your outward actions typically reflect your internal thoughts, it’s vital that you control your body language in order to demonstrate your role as a leader.

A few of the specific behaviors you’ll want to keep your eye on include your posture, vocal inflections and self-conscious touches.  A leader should demonstrate proper posture and use a firm, yet commanding tone of voice.  This isn’t the time to be timid, so role your shoulders back and practice speaking in a confident and authoritative manner.

At the same time, force yourself to be aware of any subconscious behaviors that project self-consciousness to your followers.  People who are self-conscious tend to touch their hair, faces and clothing frequently, which conveys a sense of doubt and insecurity to others.  In order to be taken seriously as a strong leader, focus on getting those fidgety fingers under control!

Step #3 – Engaging your followers’ attention

As a leader, you have two choices when it comes to communication styles – talking at your followers or engaging their attention to promote positive behaviors.

Guess which one’s more effective?

Chances are you’ve encountered a leader who uses the “talking at” approach.  Maybe it was a teacher in high school who insisted you do what you were told, or a boss who followed the “what I say goes” style of leadership.  How well did you respond to that?  Unless you’re the most submissive person on the planet, this style of leadership likely inspired resentment and resistance – not loyalty – with you.

Instead, strong leaders lead by engaging their followers.  Typically, this is done by asking questions that encourage your followers to take ownership of their actions.  As an example, instead of telling a lackluster sales employee that he needs to step up his game, asking, “What can you do to improve this situation?” prompts him to take ownership of his own performance.

Of course, to be recognized as the leader in this situation, you’ll need to pick up key elements from your employee’s response that can then be used to encourage positive behavior.  With practice, you’ll find that it’s easy to use your followers’ responses to uncover their hidden motivations and interests, allowing you to turn these elements around and manage your followers more effectively.

Developing your leadership skills takes time, but by practicing these techniques – including understanding your followers’ motivations, demonstrating authoritative body language and engaging, rather than talking down to – you’ll soon receive the recognition you deserve as being a strong leader.

Image: jp_ns

7 Power Words to Help You Get Inside Your Prospects’ Heads

In many cases, winning a sales contract often comes down to one simple fact – are you and the benefits of your product more memorable than all the other people pitching your prospect?

Think for a second about how it must feel to work as a purchasing manager.  The second you so much as think about buying a new product, you’re immediately hit with several different sales messages, all from people who are as eager to close the deal as the next guy.  Heck, you don’t even have to be looking to buy something for the number of incoming cold calls to make you want to put your phone straight to voicemail and call it a day!

After being subjected to pitch after pitch, day after day, there are plenty of buyers out there who will simply make a decision to be done with the entire process – whether or not the option they’ve selected is truly in the best interests of their companies.  So if you want to increase your odds of being the solution these buyers turn to (no matter how engaged they are), you’ve got to make your pitch as memorable as possible.

One way to do this is with the use of “power words”.  These words appeal to different areas of our brains than most communication, causing pitches using power words to be “stickier” in the minds of prospects.  The following are a few power words for you to consider, as well as how you can use them in your sales pitches:

Power Word #1 – “Achieve”

People are motivated by very different things, but one of the strongest pulls is our desire to achieve.  It’s why we chase after sports trophies, good grades and high sales commissions – and it’s what makes this word so valuable in sales communications.  Showing your prospect how your product or service will help him to achieve his goals (not just what features it provides) will give you a leg up over the competition.

“If you’re anything like my other clients, I don’t doubt you’ll achieve a 100% return on your investment in as little as three months.”

Power Word #2 – “Choice”

In my last post, I mentioned how important choice is.  When we have access to different choices, we feel powerful – when we don’t, we feel threatened and insignificant.  So if you want to be more persuasive and make your prospect feel empowered by your product or service, consider phrasing your sales pitch in the form of a choice being offered.

“You have a choice – you can go with my solution, which guarantees a 50% improvement in sales, or you can go with my competitors who won’t do a thing to protect your investment.”

Power Word #3 – “Complete”

Ever bought a new toy or video game, only to get home and realize you don’t have the right batteries on hand?  Missing pieces can be frustrating, which is why most people are drawn to complete solutions. You can take advantage of this natural tendency by incorporating language that positions your product or service as a complete offering compared to your competitors’ solutions.

“The beauty of my product is that it’s a complete solution.  You won’t need to make any additional investments to achieve the benefits we discussed.”

Power Word #4 – “Critical”

For some reason, the word “critical” makes me think of astronauts and other life-or-death pursuits.  It’s an engaging, powerful word – when something is truly critical, it’s more than just important.  Plenty of peoples’ brains respond in the same way, making the use of this power word a great way to grab your prospect’s attention and hold it until your pitch can be completed.

“With the coming changes in your industry, it will be critical that you improve your systems if you want to stay on top.”

Power Word #5 – “Secure”

Security is another powerful motivating force – especially in this down economy.  With corporate budgets as tightly controlled as ever, the risk of misusing funds is a very real concern for many people.  When pitching high dollar products and services, emphasizing the security of your offering can be a great way to help hesitant prospects move closer to a deal.

“The money back guarantee we offer helps to keep your investment secure, so you never have to worry about losing money or taking a big risk.”

Power Word #6 – “Simple”

Remember that busy purchasing manager we were discussing earlier?  If he had to choose between two products – one of which that’s pitched based on its proven results and the other that’s sold on its simplicity – which do you think he’ll choose?  Keep in mind, busy people like simplicity, which is what makes this word so powerful in sales communications.

“Getting started with our product is simple – before you know it, you’ll be up and running!”

Power Word #7 – “Startling”

The word “startling” works in sales pitches for the same reason the National Enquirer continues to sell magazines week after week.  As humans, we’re fascinated by things that are different, so by calling attention to startling facts and figures about your industry or product lines, you’ll bury your pitch even deeper in your prospect’s mind.

“It’s startling, how many people will fall behind in your industry in the next few years.  That’s why we recommend launching now to prevent any unnecessary delays.”

Are there any words you’ve found to be particularly useful in your own sales pitches?  If so, share your recommendations in the comments section below!

Image: thinkpanama

Using NLP Presuppositions in Sales Communications

At the heart of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is a set of 13 presuppositions that form the basis for every NLP technique that’s built on this groundwork.  While it’s important to recognize that these presuppositions aren’t presumed to be 100% applicable, 100% of the time, accepting them as generally true is an important part of translating NLP theories to your own life.

To review, the 13 presuppositions of NLP are as follows:

  1. Behind every behavior there is a positive intention.
  2. The map is not the territory.
  3. Anything can be accomplished when the task is broken down into small enough chunks.
  4. There is no such thing as failure, only feedback.
  5. People already have all the resources they need.
  6. Every behavior is useful in some context.
  7. If one person can do something, other people can learn from that person’s success.
  8. The messenger never rests until the message is delivered.
  9. The meaning of your communication is the response you get.
  10. Communication is redundant.
  11. Choice is better than no choice.
  12. People always make the best choice available to them at the time.
  13. If what you are doing isn’t working, do anything else.

Understanding how these presuppositions influence NLP theory is important, but what’s even more useful is figuring out how these broad truths can be applied to more specific aspects of your life.

One area that’s particularly well suited to the application of NLP presuppositions is sales communications.  No matter what industry you’re in or what job title you hold, chances are you make use of sales communication in some aspect of daily life.  For example, you may work as a salesperson who pitches products to potential buyers, or you may simply use elements of sales communication to persuade others to see your point of view, as is the case for most project managers.

Since so many of us make use of at least some elements of sales communication, understanding how to be more effective and persuasive is often a vital pursuit within the business world.  If you find yourself in this position, consider the following potential applications of NLP presuppositions to your sales communications.

First, let’s take a look at the ninth presupposition – that the intention of your communication is the result you derive from it.  On its face, this sounds contradictory.  After all, if you’re pitching a client on a new product and get a “No” response, the result clearly isn’t matching up with what you expected to hear.

However, it’s important to remember that communication isn’t just the words that you’ve said.  Your appearance, body language and mannerisms are all communicating as well, creating a unique experience for your listener.  The overall result of all these different elements working together can be determined by the response that’s elicited from the listener – which may or may not be what we intended to communicate in the first place!

If you find yourself frequently engaging in sales communication without receiving the response you desire, consider that there may be other factors that are clouding your message and preventing you from reaching your intended resolution.  Ask a trusted friend or family member to watch you give a sample pitch or presentation to see if another set of eyes can help you pick up on any of these unintentional saboteurs.

Another fun NLP presupposition that can be applied to the sales process is the idea that choice is always better than no choice.

Think, for a second, about how this idea plays out in your own life by imagining two sets of kitchen cupboards.  The first has all the ingredients to make your favorite meal, while the second has these materials plus enough to make fiver other dishes as well.  Even though you’ll be able to prepare your favorite meal with the items found in both sets of cupboards, knowing that you have a choice to select this dish is infinitely more satisfying than feeling as if you’re stuck with a single option.

When you enter into any type of sales communication, remember this principle and apply it to the statements make.  Even if what you’re offering is a false choice (for example, “You can either invest in this product now or wait a few months, but then your competitors will be ahead of you,”), allowing your prospect to feel as if he’s making the final decision often results in more satisfactory outcomes for you.

Finally, consider the 13th NLP presupposition as it applies to sales communication.  There are innumerable ways to attempt to persuade people in these instances – so why do so many of us stick to the same “tried and true” tactics, even if they fail repeatedly?!  If you aren’t having a lot of luck persuading your prospects to buy in to your products or ideas, try something – anything – new to see if your results will improve.

Image: Mark Kidsley

3 Ways to Use NLP Techniques to Drive Change in the Workplace

In my last post, I talked about NLP “meta programs”, which essentially control how we think and process information.  However, while applying these formats to your own skills and development can be helpful, using them to uncover the hidden motivations of those around you to determine how to drive change in the workplace can be even more useful.

The following are three different NLP meta-programs that, when applied to your co-workers, can provide you with significant insight into how to improve your working conditions:

Technique #1 – Applying the Toward versus Away Principle

The “toward versus away” meta-program addresses whether individual people are more motivated by the potential to achieve a certain benefit or the drive to avoid pain.  NLP master Tony Robbins describes the distinction by saying:

“All human behavior revolves around the urge gain pleasure or avoid pain. You pull away from a lighted match in order to avoid the pain of burning your hand. You sit and watch a beautiful sunset because you get pleasure from the glorious celestial show as day glides into night.”

And while it’s useful to know which of these two motivating forces you, yourself, respond best to, identifying how your co-workers fall on this spectrum can also be incredibly useful in terms of driving change in the workplace.

For example, suppose you believe it’s in your company’s best interest to pursue a new segment of the market.  But since it’s never been done before, your manager is resistant – offering excuse after excuse as to why your proposal won’t work.  But if you knew more about where your manager fell on the “pleasure versus pain” scale, you’d know which of the two following arguments would be more likely to succeed:

“I really believe that, by targeting this new segment of the market, we stand to increase profits by as much as 20%.  Can you even imagine how much your boss would like that?”


“I know it’s a risk to pursue this opportunity, but the market segment I want to target is growing at 40% a year.  If we don’t act now, I’m afraid we’re going to miss a golden opportunity to grow our profits.”

Technique #2 – Understanding NLP Work Styles

Another NLP meta-program that can be extremely useful in driving change in the workplace is understanding the unique work style of each co-worker and manager you deal with.  NLP theory outlines three distinct work styles that you need to be aware of:

  • Independent – People who are independent workers have extreme difficulty participating in group projects and tend to do better when left to their own devices.
  • Cooperative – Conversely, some workers perform best as part of a group, where they have the opportunity to bounce ideas off other members of the team.
  • Proximate – Proximate workers take a middle-ground to this debate, preferring to work with others while still retaining personal authority over individual aspects of a project.

Attempting to drive change within the workplace means understanding as much about your fellow employees as possible – and work styles are a great place to start this analysis.

For example, suppose you’re attempting to convince your boss to consider a remote work arrangement that will add more flexibility to your schedule.  By understanding how your boss works in relation to others, you’ll be able to determine which of the following arguments will be most effective:

“I’ll be out of your hair more, so working independently from home will help us both to be more productive [for the independent boss.]”


“Even though I won’t be here in person, there are plenty of collaboration tools I can use from home that’ll make it feel like I’m still part of the team [for the cooperative boss].”


“As long as I handle my specific parts of our projects, there’s no reason I can’t collaborate with the rest of the team using teleconferencing tools [for the proximate boss].”

Technique #3 – Emphasizing Possibility versus Necessity

Another NLP meta-program that’s used to process information and inform life decisions is the conflict of possibility versus necessity.  A person’s who’s motivated by necessity makes decisions based needs that must be fulfilled – as an example, taking a stable, but unexciting job in order to pay the bills.  Others thrive off of possibility and require a set of stimulating options, experiences and choices in order to feel fulfilled.

Chances are you work with both types of personalities in your office.  In order to drive change within the workplace, you’ll need determine who’s who to uncover these employee’s hidden motivations.

In this case, consider the example of trying to convince your boss to enroll you in an expensive training program.  If you knew your boss was an analytic personality motivated by necessity, you could argue about how essential the skills you’ll learn through the course will be to your business’s future success.  On the other hand, if your manager was more possibility-oriented, asking him or her to imagine all the different ways your new skills could be used may be much more effective.

In all of these examples, applying the NLP meta-programs discussed in my last post helps you to determine how your co-workers think and what they’re motivated by.  Using this information should help you to come up with the most persuasive arguments needed in order to drive change within the workplace.

Image: Marie Carter

How the Brain Processes Information with NLP Meta-Programs

Each and every day, our brains process billions and billions of sensory messages, transforming these collections of lights and sounds into meaningful, actionable information.  And while this is no small feat in and of itself, what’s even more interesting – at least, from an NLP standpoint – is how this information processing capability can be used to drive our thoughts and reactions.

According to NLP teachings, our brains process these experiences according to a number of different strategies, known as “meta-programs.”

Essentially, meta-programs give us a framework for processing thoughts and experiences according to a set of pre-defined criteria; much like a computer uses software programs to handle repeated tasks and demands.  If the computer had to write a separate program to process new information every time it was entered, the processing demands would be overwhelming!

In their landmark Encyclopedia of NLP terms, researchers Robert Dilts and Judith Delozier describe NLP meta-programs (referred to here as “strategies”) in terms of this same computer metaphor:

“A strategy is like a program in a computer. It tells you what to do with the information you are getting, and like a computer program, you can use the same strategy to process a lot of different kinds of information.”

And while there are plenty of different NLP meta-programs we’ll discuss later, let’s look at one example now in order to better understand how these strategies help our brains to better process incoming information:

One common NLP meta-program is the “Internal versus External Frame of Reference”, which defines where and how we seek validation.  Think, for a second, about how you prefer to receive feedback on projects at work.  If you need others to compliment you or congratulate you on a job well done, you’re operating with an external frame of reference.  On the opposite side of this NLP technique, if it’s enough for you to simply *know* you’ve done a good job, you’re processing feedback based on an internal frame of reference.

In this example, the sensory input that’s being processed is feedback on your job performance.  Your boss provides the input, but it’s up to your brain to utilize existing NLP meta-programs in order to interpret this data.

Following this theory, an employee who’s using an external frame of reference may be unsatisfied with a lackluster response from his or her boss, while a worker with an internal frame of reference may feel uncomfortable if too much verbal recognition is given from outside parties.  By understanding the role that NLP meta-programs play in causing these feelings of discomfort, we can seek to resolve these issues more logically in order to achieve greater productivity and overall happiness.

In addition to the “Internal versus External Frame of Reference” NLP meta-program, there are a number of others you should be aware of:

  • Overview versus Detail – When confronted with new information, does your brain prefer to seek out additional detail or understand the bigger picture?
  • Proactive versus Reactive – Do you prefer to take a proactive approach to dealing with problems and challenges or do you usually wait to see what results from these issues before taking action?
  • Toward versus Away – Are you more motivated by the thought of obtaining a benefit (“toward” motivation) or by avoiding pain and discomfort (“away” motivation)?
  • Comparison Processing – When presented with new items or ideas, do you tend to associate this information with similar concepts in your mind or instead contrast it to dissimilar items?
  • Self versus Others – In general, do you tend to think it terms of “What’s in it for me?” or “What is the effect on the group?”
  • Matcher versus Mismatcher – Similar to comparison processing, do you look at the world and see how alike certain items are or do you take more notice of their differences?
  • Time Orientation – Are you an “in the moment” person?  Or do you tend to view items within a historical or future-oriented context?

There are plenty of other NLP meta-programs out there that can be studied, but what’s most interesting to note about the items on this list is that there’s no “right or wrong” answer.  If you tend to process incoming information according to a detailed perspective versus a “big picture” approach, you aren’t wrong – you’re simply using your own unique set of NLP meta-programming.

As you might imagine, being able to recognize and understand these NLP meta-programs within your own psyche can be incredibly value.  If, for example, you’re able to determine that you are a detail-oriented person, you’ll prioritize seeking out the level of information you need to work successfully when approaching new projects or ideas.  You may also seek out people with a similar mental set up, as you’ll find you naturally have better rapport with those who understand your unique needs.

Once you understand how NLP meta-programs are applied to your own thoughts and ideas, you’ll naturally start to see the results of this mental processing in others.  In my next post, I’ll show you how uncovering the NLP meta-programs that others are using can help you to drive change in your workplace – so stick around for more information on how to use these tools successfully in various aspects of your life!

Image: Rego


3 Ways to Incorporate Hypnotism Into Your Sales Process

In our last post, we took a closer look at whether hypnotism could be considered a valid NLP persuasion technique and found that yes; there are plenty of applications for this process in a sales setting.  The key to understanding why revolves around identifying the difference between traditional hypnosis – which attempts to command the subconscious after luring subjects into a more receptive state (and which isn’t effective on subjects with strong analytical minds) – and more subtle approaches.

Specifically, the techniques that are most useful from an NLP standpoint are those that are tied to the theory of Ericksonian hypnosis.  Instead of barging into the mind and attempting to command the subconscious, point-blank, Ericksonian hypnosis succeeds by implanting stories and suggestions that convince the subject to reach the conclusions the hypnotist intended.

Technique #1 – Isomorphic Metaphors

As we discussed in the last article on this subject, isomorphic metaphors are stories that are told with the hope that the subject will put himself into the fable and apply the lessons learned to himself.  The classic example used to teach this principle in an NLP setting is the story of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”, which is told to children to persuade them not to lie.

As this example has no bearing on the sales process, we need to come up with other examples of isomorphic metaphors that can be used to illustrate a point.  One way to do this is with the story of a client who should have used your product or service in the first place.  Since most prospective customers will ask you about your current clients or projects, consider saying something like the following:

“I’m working with a client now, who had hired [Competitor Name] before he came to me.  It’s a shame – he’s behind schedule and over budget right now, and he could have prevented all of these costly delays if he had just come to me in the first place.”

Through the use of a story-like metaphor, you’re essentially implanting the idea into your client’s mind that he should hire you now in order to avoid the delays and extra expenses involved in hiring your competitor.

Technique #2 – Embedded Commands

The second Ericksonian hypnosis technique we discussed in our last article was the idea of “embedded commands” – statements that are innocently hidden in larger sentences, but which have the effect of nagging at the subconscious until they can be fulfilled.

This process translates incredibly well to selling, but it can take some practice before you feel comfortable using embedded commands successfully in person.  To get the hang of it, practice the following phrases at home before attempting to use them in a live selling setting:

“You should work with me in order to reduce your costs by 20% or more.”  (embedded command – “work with me”)

“You can relax now that I’m here to help solve the problems you’re facing.” (embedded command – “relax”)

“Read each word of this presentation, and you’ll see how I can help your business grow.” (embedded command – “read each word”)

Ideally, embedded commands should be short (think no more than 2-4 phrases) and should be spoken in a confident manner.  If you warble while delivering your embedded commands, the effect won’t be nearly as pronounced – which is why it’s so important to practice these techniques ahead of time.

Technique #3 – Phrase Repetition

In order for hypnosis techniques to be effective, your prospect must be in the right frame of mind – which, unfortunately, few people are when entering a sales pitch!

Think about how you respond when you’re forced to sit through someone else’s sales presentation…  You automatically become defensive and resistant – searching for any way possible to reject the person’s pitch.  Since this type of mindset isn’t useful for our sales purposes, it’s essential that we get our prospects to relax before they’ll be willing or able to consider our proposals.

One way to do this is through a technique known as phrase repetition.  By repeating the same fragments of speech several times, we implicitly give the prospect’s mind permission to wander – after all, if we’re already repeating things, the conscious mind can likely take a break without missing anything important.  Once the prospect has allowed his mind to wander, we’re better able to address the subconscious and engage prospects on a less rational, more intuitive basis.

Consider the following example:

“We provide development solutions written by developers, for developers.”

Not only does the phrase repetition here drive home the benefits of this particular product, its meter and use of repetitive words also helps to distract the conscious mind and induce a semi-hypnotic state.

Obviously, it’s important to use caution when integrating hypnosis techniques into the sales process as tactics that stray too far into the realm of “mind control” are highly unethical.  However, by employing these techniques sparingly and in appropriate situations only, you can substantially improve your chances of making a memorable sales pitch and closing the deal.

Image: Joe Dee 2010

Hypnotism: BS or Valuable NLP Technique?

Although the phrase “hypnosis” often triggers images of stage magicians, waving pocket watches back in forth in order to con audience members into barking like dogs or clucking like chickens, there’s no arguing with the fact that the concept is taken seriously by plenty of sales people and business leaders.  So to truly understand whether or not hypnotism has value as a persuasion technique, we need to first push past these mental stereotypes to uncover the true definition of “hypnosis” and how it really works.

“Traditional hypnosis”, as it’s referred to in NLP circles, involves the process of making suggestions to the subconscious mind.  Typically, the process begins by helping targets achieve the right state of mind in order to be receptive to these commands, which may be done through relaxation techniques and focusing exercises (hence, the commonly used pocket watch stereotype referenced earlier).  Once this trance-like state has been achieved, subjects may become more uninhibited or suggestible, causing them to be more receptive to new thoughts or requests.

However, if this all sounds “new agey”, be aware that there’s actually quite a bit of scientific research to back up the physiological changes that occur when subjects enter a hypnotic state (whether through the encouragement of others or through highly-engrossing activities like reading or meditating).  Researchers have been studying the process of hypnosis for years, although only recently have technological advances allowed these scientists to understand what occurs within the brain during hypnosis.

According to these hypnosis researchers:

“In some studies, EEGs from subjects under hypnosis showed a boost in the lower frequency waves associated with dreaming and sleep, and a drop in the higher frequency waves associated with full wakefulness.  Researchers have also studied patterns in the brain’s cerebral cortex that occur during hypnosis.  In these studies, hypnotic subjects showed reduced activity in the left hemisphere of the cerebral cortex, while activity in the right hemisphere often increased.”

Based on the results of these researchers, whose data indicate changes in the areas of the brain associated with wakefulness, logical reasoning and inhibition, we can conclude that hypnosis is a very real phenomenon.  But does this mean that the practice can be successfully used as an NLP technique designed to increase sales or promote other positive changes?

Obviously, you aren’t going to walk in to a potential client’s office, whip out a pocket watch and start swinging it until he’s signed on the dotted line.  Not only would that be incredibly difficult to pull off, it’d be unethical to coerce a prospect into doing business while under hypnosis.

Instead, where hypnosis has value as an NLP technique is through a process known as “Ericksonian hypnosis.”  The goal of Ericksonian hypnosis (named for its developer, Milton Erickson) isn’t to access the subconscious mind and manipulate it directly – a process that rarely works on those with highly critical, analytic minds.  Instead, Ericksonian hypnosis attempts to embed stories and metaphors into the unconscious in order to implant ideas while bypassing logic and reason filters that would otherwise prevent traditional hypnosis from occurring.

Within the field of Ericksonian hypnosis, there are two particular techniques that can be useful from an NLP perspective – isomorphic metaphors and embedded commands.

Isomorphic metaphors are created by telling prospects a story that enables them to connect with the main character and identify with the lessons this character learns.  Children, for example, are told the story of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” with the implicit understanding that a similar fate will befall them as did the poor boy in the story if they make the same mistakes.  Because this story is relayed as an isomorphic metaphor, it’s able to penetrate the subconscious and ultimately be more effective than simply telling children not to lie.

Embedded commands are another powerful NLP technique that allows you to address the subconscious directly and implant the desire to perform a specific action.  For example, if you told a sales prospect, “I know you’ll want to buy right away once I share these benefits with you,” his subconscious may pick up on the phrase, “buy right away”, implanting an unconscious desire to fulfill this request as soon as possible.

Although both of these techniques use elements of hypnosis to achieve their ends, they work on a far more sophisticated level than what most people envision when they hear the phrase, “hypnosis.”  It is these techniques – not the “blunt force” battering of the subconscious mind with commands, as in traditional hypnosis – that have the best potential for use in the sales world.

In our next article, we’ll take a closer look at how specific elements of Ericksonian hypnosis and NLP (including both isomorphic metaphors and embedded commands) can be used to influence the sales process, leading to happier clients and more sales overall.

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